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Being thankful benefits your health

Thanksgiving dinnerIt’s that time of year when we are in the middle of preparing and coordinating for the first family gathering for the holiday season: Thanksgiving.

Whose turn is it to host? Is Grandma going to make the pies? Will it be whole or jellied cranberry sauce? How big of a bird will we need?

Between the hustle and bustle of shopping, cleaning and prepping for the big feast, we can easily get stressed and lose sight of the reason for Thanksgiving itself. And with the stores trying to get the big holiday season started earlier every year (finding a turkey decoration in November is becoming a bit like Where’s Waldo), it may even get harder for us to acknowledge our American holiday of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving’s story began in 1621 in Plymouth County, Mass., and was more formally established when Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday in November as our national day of thanksgiving in 1863. So for a holiday with nearly 400 years of history and officially listed as a national holiday since 1941, what are we really supposed to do on this day? I believe, as President Lincoln suggested, that we should continue to center our day on thankfulness, or gratitude. We should be thankful for our health, family and home, as well as for the year’s harvest. Additionally, we should be thankful for our nation and our neighbors.

Plus, we should be thankful for the holiday itself. As the New York Times writer, Sam Sifton, recently wrote, “There is no more welcoming, inclusive holiday on the American calendar than Thanksgiving” (2015). Thus, we should also be thankful for a holiday where we all can come together for one common and very healthy purpose. That is correct: a healthy purpose. Being thankful and showing our gratitude has its own health benefits.

“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships” (Harvard Medical School, 2011).

Taking a few minutes daily to think about what you are grateful for has endless benefits.

We should challenge ourselves every day to come up with different things we are thankful for to help make this new healthy habit stick.

A day where we are supposed to stop what we are doing, say thanks and feel positive is truly an amazing gift. Thus, take some time away from the feast, the football …. and even the shopping to examine what you are thankful for this year and make this year a true Thanksgiving. Perhaps you may find that after this holiday you will want to continue sharing your gratitude for days to come. Doing so will only help to enhance your overall well-being. Now that is a something to be thankful for!

Sources:
Havard Health Publications http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude).
New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/11/dining/how-to-cook-thanksgiving.html?_r=0

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